Sunspot© NASA

A Massive Sunspot Has Doubled In Size And Here’s Why It’s Alarming

Salva Mubarak
Senior Features Writer

In today’s edition of ‘terrifying space thing that could potentially cause major harm on Earth’, we have a gigantic sunspot that is facing the planet and which doubled in size overnight.

The sunspot, known as AR3038, is now roughly three times the size of Earth. The Solar Dynamics Observatory at NASA is keeping a close eye on the spot for any indication of solar flares bursting from it.

So far, the sunspot has remained calm without any indication of bursting into flares anytime soon, but the scientists are still concerned about the possibility.

What are sunspots exactly?

Now is as good of a time as any to get a lowdown on what is a sunspot. Sunspots are black-coloured regions on the surface of the sun that develop over locations that have extremely powerful magnetic fields. The magnetic flux is so strong in these locations that it prevents heat from touching the surface, making these spots much colder than the rest of the sun, and darker too. These spots are known to emit powerful bursts of radiation.

Should you be worried about the gigantic sunspot?

What would happen if AR3038 does erupt into solar flares? Not many good things, as it turns out. While the planet faces no danger from the flares reaching its surface, we might face a huge burst of radiation that can cause huge damage to radio communications and navigation channels and cause temporary blackouts. This doesn’t bode well for any in-flight airplanes or en-route ships that rely on constant navigational help via radio signals.

So while sunspots are a very common phenomenon, the rate at which AR3038 is expanding is concerning to the experts.

Experts have categorised the potential flare as an M-class flare, which means it’s a medium-intensity flare. So you can file this under ‘Damaging, but not apocalyptic space event’ and rest assured.